UNODC Executive Director meets President Ahmadinejad
as he concludes trip to Iran
21 July 2011- Tehran/Vienna (UNODC) - Concluding an official three-day visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to explore ways of enhancing practical cooperation in counter-narcotics. The Office is strengthening its portfolio in Iran with a new Country Programme. The Executive Director thanked the President for his support for and excellent cooperation with UNODC.
"Iran has the world's highest rate of seizures of opium and heroin and is contributing effectively to various regional mechanisms. I am happy to be here with the President to discuss ways to enhance cooperation, increase technical dialogue with the international community and promote active participation in the forthcoming UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries", the Executive Director stated.
In his meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Akbar Salehi, the Executive Director encouraged Iran to work more closely with UNODC in the implementation of the Country Programme. He praised Iran's ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and invited the country to consider ratifying the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols .
The previous day, the Executive Director had visited the eastern border with Afghanistan and Pakistan to witness how the Iranian authorities were strengthening border security and counter-narcotics efforts. He flew over part of the 1,000 km-long system of embankments, canals, trenches and cement walls running along the Sistan-Baluchistan border. Listening to the border guards recounting their challenges, Mr. Fedotov said that they were "sacrificing everything to hold back a noxious tide of drugs."
Mr. Fedotov met Mr. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, Secretary-General of Drug Control Headquarters and Minister of Interior. The Executive Director acknowledged the effectiveness of the police officers and armed forces on the front line of drug trafficking. The Islamic Republic of Iran accounts for the highest rate of opium seizures (89%) in the world, as well as heroin/morphine (41%), according to the UNODC World Drug Report 2011.
Recognizing Iran's concerns about drug trafficking across its borders, the Executive Director appreciated Iran's active engagement in regional mechanisms, such as the UNODC-brokered Triangular Initiative (between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan) and the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries.
In discussions with Yahya Maroofi, Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Mr. Fedotov emphasized that the implementation of the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries will promote stronger synergy in drug control with ECO and other relevant regional and international organizations.
Mr. Fedotov also met Seyed Shamseddin Hosseini, Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs, and Head of the High Council in Anti-Money Laundering, an area in which UNODC has offered technical assistance. In 2008, the anti-money laundering bill was enacted by the Parliament of Iran. In 2009, the Office helped establish a Financial Intelligence Unit, which tracks suspicious financial transactions and trains staff to apply international best practices in tackling money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The Executive Director said his Office stood ready to work with the Ministry and the Financial Intelligence Unit to further regional and international cooperation in countering money-laundering.
Before meeting the Minister of Health Dr. Marziyeh Vahid Dasterji, Mr. Fedotov, visited a drop-in centre in Tehran run by the grass-roots NGO Rebirth, which has provided treatment for hundreds of thousands of drug addicts and is a key partner in implementing drug treatment programmes across the country.
Mr. Fedotov welcomed initiatives such as Rebirth, which focuses on the health, psycho-social counselling and the reinsertion of former drug users into the community. "We know that treatment programmes spare society the most devastating ills - crime, the spread of HIV and hepatitis, and rejection by family and society," said the Executive Director. "Clinical evidence shows that drug prevention, treatment and care are effective in helping drug abusers kick their habit, curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and improve people's lives. People can fulfil their potential and become productive members of society."
On leaving Tehran, Mr. Fedotov pledged to ensure the effectiveness of the UNODC Country Programme and to address the health and security challenges before the country. "Iran is facing grave threats - mostly alone - losing many of its law enforcement personnel and even more people to a tragic epidemic" he said. "There is an urgent humanitarian imperative. There is too much at stake for Iran, the region and the international community as a whole."